After this Jesus traveled throughout Galilee. He stayed out of Judea because the Jewish authorities wanted to kill him. Now the Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. So Jesus’ brothers advised him, “Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” (For not even his own brothers believed in him.)
So Jesus replied, “My time has not yet arrived, but you are ready at any opportunity. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me, because I am testifying about it that its deeds are evil. You go up to the feast yourselves. I am not going up to this feast yet, because my time has not yet fully arrived.” When he had said this, he remained in Galilee. But when his brothers had gone up to the feast, then Jesus himself also went up, not openly but in secret. So the Jewish authorities were looking for him at the feast, asking, “Where is he?” There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He is a good man,” but others, “He deceives the common people.” However, no one spoke openly about him for fear of the Jewish authorities. (John 7:1-13)
The chapter we now begin is divided from the preceding one by a wide interval of time. The many miracles which our Lord wrought, while He “walked in Galilee,” are passed over by John in comparative silence. The events which he was specially inspired to record are those which took place in or near Jerusalem.
We should observe in this passage the desperate hardness and unbelief of human nature. We are told that even our Lord’s “brethren did not believe in Him.” Holy and harmless and blameless as He was in life, some of his nearest relatives, according to the flesh, did not receive Him as the Messiah. It was bad enough that His own people, “the Jews sought to kill Him.” But it was even worse that “His brethren did not believe.”
That great Scriptural doctrine, man’s need of preventing and converting grace, stands out here, as if written with a sunbeam. It becomes all who question that doctrine to look at this passage and consider. Let them observe that seeing Christ’s miracles, hearing Christ’s teaching, living in Christ’s own company, were not enough to make men believers. The mere possession of spiritual privileges never yet made any one a Christian. All is useless without the effectual and applying work of God the Holy Spirit. No wonder that our Lord said in another place, “No man can come to me, except the Father who has sent me draw him.” (John 6:44.)
The true servants of Christ in every age will do well to remember this. They are often surprised and troubled to find that in religion they stand alone. They are apt to fancy that it must be their own fault that all around them are not converted like themselves. They are ready to blame themselves because their families remain worldly and unbelieving. But let them look at the verse before us. In our Lord Jesus Christ there was no fault either in temper, word, or deed. Yet even Christ’s own “brethren did not believe in Him.”
Our blessed Master has truly learned by experience how to sympathize with all his people who stand alone. This is a thought “full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort.” He knows the heart of every isolated believer, and can be touched with the feeling of his trials. He has drunk this bitter cup. He has passed through this fire. Let all who are fainting and cast down, because brothers and sisters despise their religion, turn to Christ for comfort, and pour out their hearts before Him. He “has suffered Himself being tempted” in this way, and He can help as well as feel. (Heb. 2:18.)
We should observe, for another thing, in this passage, one principal reason why many hate Christ.We are told that our Lord said to His unbelieving brethren, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hates, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil.”
These words reveal one of those secret principles which influence men in their treatment of Christ. They help to explain that deadly enmity with which many during our Lord’s earthly ministry regarded Him and His Gospel. It was not so much the high doctrines which He preached, as the high standard of practice which He proclaimed, which gave offense. It was not even His claim to be received the Messiah which men disliked so much, as His witness against the wickedness of their lives. In short, they could have tolerated His opinions if He would only have spared their sins.